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New DNA laws big boost for Police

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice

Hon George Hawkins
Minister of Police
Media Statement

15 April 2004

New DNA laws big boost for Police

New DNA profiling laws that come into effect today will greatly enhance the Police's ability to resolve sexual and violent crimes and burglary, says Justice Minister Phil Goff and Police Minister George Hawkins.

"DNA profiling is now an essential investigative tool in mainstream policing, and this legislation significantly widens the circumstances in which DNA samples can be taken from suspects and from convicted criminals," the Ministers said.

"We are confident it will result in more criminals being apprehended and convicted, more historic crimes being cleared up, and more burglaries being resolved."

Some of the key new measures in the legislation mean:
- Burglary suspects can be compelled to provide a DNA sample, including in circumstances where a crime scene sample is matched with a known offender's DNA profile held on the Police databank. Prior to this legislation, crime scene samples could not be used in evidence unless a fresh DNA sample was taken, which the alleged offender could refuse to give;
- The offences for which someone may be compelled to give a sample has been significantly extended to cover crimes punishable by at least seven years' jail – such as motor vehicle conversion and some receiving stolen goods offences – or any attempt or conspiracy to commit such crimes;
- DNA samples can be obtained by compulsion from prison inmates who were convicted of serious offences prior to the 1995 Blood Samples Act commencing;
- Police no longer need a court order to obtain a sample from a convicted person. However a judicial hearing can be requested by people who believe they are not liable to provide such a sample;
- Buccal (mouth) swabs, which are cheaper, less invasive and just as accurate as blood samples, can now be given as an alternative;

“Burglary is a serious crime. It is highly invasive, and often a precursor for much more serious offending," the Ministers said.

"The ability to compel burglary suspects to provide DNA samples to match against scene samples will help Police make further cuts in the burglary rate, which has dropped 17 percent since this Government took office – from 75,000 in 1999 to 61,000 in 2003 – and made burglary a priority for police.

"Another significant part of the legislation is the ability to obtain DNA samples from inmates currently in prison who were convicted prior to 12 August, 1996, when DNA testing was first introduced.

"Inmates who fall into this category have committed serious crimes, and there is a good chance that adding their DNA profiles to the databank will help Police solve some historic crimes.

"For example, recent improvements in DNA technology allowed Police to solve the murders of Teresa Cormack and Maureen McKinnell, years after they were committed.

"This legislation is further evidence of the Government's determination to fight crime on all fronts," the Ministers said.

"Substantial investment in policing over the last four years means there is now a record number of police and a record Police budget of over $1 billion.

"As a result, crime resolution rates are at their highest level since 1987, while the crime rate per 10,000 population has fallen 13.7 percent since 1996.

"More people are being brought to court and sentenced for their crimes, and better legislation has resulted in serious offenders receiving longer sentences and serving proportionately more of that sentence in jail.

"This legislation will enable Police to make further inroads into solving crime and apprehending criminals," the Ministers said.

ENDS

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